Chapter 5

~ Break ~

The things that had changed about her were too many to name, and yet Sasuke tried to devour every little detail nonetheless, engraved them into his mind in a desperate attempt to grasp the reality that slipped through his fingertips like sand. But those changes. All those reasons that eluded him hit him in the face and heart alike, despite his impassive eyes.

There was her hair; her beautiful, cherry-blossom colored hair, soft and sleek and short. Why was it short? She had loved her long hair, sweeping past her waist almost down to her hips, had tried countless of hairstyles which he, over time, learned to identify not only by appearance but also by name. Not that he had cared. But she cared, and that had been reason enough for him to memorize it, to appreciate the hours she spend on her unique locks, their treatment and styling. He had always preferred them loose and simple, a waterfall that cascaded over her shoulders, tickling his skin and face as they laid on his bed-

Sasuke shuddered. He forcefully closed his eyes shut for a brief moment, then fixed his gaze on the instruments on the cart to his right. He wanted to observe, compare via words and not images which were burned into his eyelids and would turn this night into another one filled with horrid illusions, a racing heart and retching throat. But gods, it was hard to contrast present against past objectively without getting lost in a whirl of figures and forms and emotions.

So instead of remembering and feeling, he deduced. Chin-long hair was undeniably more practical for hospital work – any work in general – and everyday life. And the way it was parted to the right, it also effectively hid a section of the forehead she used to feel so insecure about, although she had obviously long since grown into it. The cut accentuated her long neck and rounded jaw exquisitely.

And still, it unnerved him. It was not that he disliked it; she would be beautiful with buns, a ponytail, a pixie cut, crown braids, fishtail braids, french braids and all those other styles. But it was a change, a change the happening of which he had missed and it tore him apart with every flutter of her rose strands. The dark red headband that replaced her bow tie accessory was cold comfort.

Even those alterations that had to come inevitably over time, and which he had even envisioned in his sleepless nights and alcohol-infused rage fits, unsettled him. She had grown but slightly, three centimeters at most, the viridian of her eyes gleamed stronger, most likely not as quickly to swim in tears anymore, and the oculars themselves now appeared smaller in comparison to her head, though they were still large and round and fascinating. Her chest and hips had expanded as well, only marginally, but it was a fact his eyes – and body – could not not notice.

And then there was of course her demeanor. She stood taller, her back straighter, and her voice carried the tone of one who knew how to command. He could tell she felt comfortable in her skin, had learned that the nurses took a liking to her. Her movements were nimble and on point, precise and clean and not a single hint of nervousness would taint the melody that sprung from her lips.

"Are you even listening to me, Sasuke?"

Ah, that. Also a grave, unsettling change. She used a tone he had never heard her utter before, not towards him and he could not ascribe this to the change of time. Disgust and hatred were not acquired so easily, so distinctly, so solely reserved for contact with him. It was a behavior he was used to, but not from her. And he could not count the times when he had internally begged for her to add this damned suffix that suddenly seemed so very important.

He tore his gaze from the meaningless tools and met her eyes. "Hn." He would have loved to say it was an act of defiance, but truthfully, he could not speak without sounding like a pathetic bastard.

She sighed upon his inexpressive reply and informed him, eyes occasionally jumping back to the file in her hands, "Your recovery is progressing impeccably. The tests yield only satisfying results, being positively negative in every respect. The inner wounds are on their best way to heal completely, and even though you have been comatose for a month your muscles do not seem to have taken any significant damage. Same goes for your brain and its functions."

"Hn." If only she knew about how he almost choked himself last night. Such actions do not exactly suggest normal brain functions.

"All in all, your recovery rate is faster than I had any right to expect it to be. I congratulate you."

He somewhat suspected that was a lie; at the very least, her facial features did not express felicitating feelings. "Hn."

"We also informed your… employer. About your current state. We were told you need not worry and should rest until you are fully recovered."

That was most definitely a lie. Like hell would Orochimaru tell him to rest at ease. No, that bastard was much more likely to fume with anger. Rightly so. "Hn."

"Can you say anything else?" She stemmed her fists into her waist, her glare more than just a bit accusing, and Sasuke felt amusement lift the corners of his lips despite it all.

He eyed her for a moment, taunting. "Hn." And when she pursed her sweet mouth in anger, his urge to tease her only grew. It was easier this way, much easier than what had transpired a week ago. She had avoided him for a few days – as long as she legally could, he judged – and when she had come back, neither of them said a word about it. The tension lingered in the air, and he knew she had questions waiting to be answered. But he could not answer them. Not without revealing secrets which should not be revealed, for one thing he had learned: He no longer had a place in her life.

It stung. Hurt. And those were understatements, but in order to correctly identify his feelings he would have to confront them and Sasuke was no fool; dealing with those sentiments would exterminate the last bit of self-control and sanity he could claim his own. He had made that mistake the night after their embrace, crying silently and unmoving until his eyes were dry and red and his heart dead. All his thinking and questions had brought him naught but suffering and agony. She was no longer the woman he had once known, and while this did nothing to diminish his love for her, it was enough to let him know his place. Which was as close to her as terrorists or the plague ought to be.

Sakura let out an infuriated sigh and closed his file. "You think you're funny, huh? Well, amuse yourself all you want. From all I can gather, you'll have to stay here for at least another five weeks."

It was then that his condescending mask crumbled. Not because he hated the thought of staying longer than absolutely necessary. He wanted to drown in her presence, drink up on all the movements and words that he had missed, and his heart already ached upon the thought of leaving. But he knew that every day was torture, a test against his fragile limits, and he needed to leave as soon as possible if he wanted to do what was best. For her. So, mustering all his vocal anger and condescension, he growled, "I don't think so."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Come again?"

Instead of a reply, Sasuke rose from the bed, purposefully ignoring the walking frame he had stumbled about with the past days. His head began to spin when he swung his legs over and touched the cool ground, a twitch ran through his light body, but he stood nonetheless. For a moment, the world refused to come together properly and there were two concerned Sakuras looking at him as he struggled to maintain a nonchalant behavior.

"See," he snarled, "there is no reason for me to-"

He fell. Disgracefully so, his wobbly legs suddenly gave in beneath him and despite his determined decision to brace his stumbling with a secure step to the front he somehow missed the floor – how can you miss the floor? It doesn't move – and then, something soft and odorous caught him, his head bumping against smooth fabric above supple skin.

There was silence for a moment. Sasuke breathed, and more he could not do, and not because his legs felt like pudding or because his head spun like a carousel. He knew he had to break this contact before the scene from a few days ago could repeat itself, because he was sure that either of them – and he was not entirely certain of who that either of them would be – would collapse underneath the emotional strain and suffering.

But heavens, her scent. This wonderful, angelic scent his nose had never forgotten. It clouded his mind, his judgment, and as things were he could be proud he did not cling to her clothing to press her close enough to suffocate himself. Which, all things considered, would be quite a fantastic way of biting the dust. Instead, his fingers pressed against the cool ground, quivering with suppressed need. She was close, so close, and warm and soft and alive. And so unbearably far away.

Sakura shifted slightly and her hands took hold of his arms. "Can you stand?" There was no criticism, no accusation in her voice and he was grateful for that. Sasuke nodded curtly, and with her delicate yet deft assistance he rose to his feet and took the few steps back to his bed to sit down on the safe mattress, and only then did he lift his head to meet her eyes.

She frowned. The emerald of her eyes was bright and alert, and yet a shade of something – concern? - hung over them. But she did not talk. Instead, her hands rubbed against one another, as if she was trying to shake off their contact with his skin. He could see that their… whatever it had been still lingered on her mind, and her obvious trouble was enough to reinforce his impression of being the last person on earth with the right to be by her side.

After an uncomfortable pause, Sakura sat next to him and proceeded to examine him once again. Her small hands strobe his torso, his stomach, and he let it happen. Like the weakling he was.

"How are you feeling?" Sakura's voice asked quietly after a while, and he opened one eye to peer at her. Experiencing her concern was too painful to bear – and yet, knowing it was directed towards him was a delight. He ought to enjoy it, for the time it would last. But he could not.

"Fine."

Sakura snorted. "Yeah right. You do know you don't have to put on a show or anything for me?"

He could not stop himself from sneering, "Hn. Why would I do that?"

"Beats me." Sakura stood, not knowing – for how could she – that his heart ached upon the distance she created. Even though it was necessary.

Hidden beneath a cotton sheet, Sasuke balled his fist. 'Control yourself, idiot. Things have changed, and Sakura...'

She turned her head, as if she had heard his mental call, reluctance written over her beautiful features. "Are you sure you are okay? I... I am your doctor, so if there are any troubles weighing you down, I will listen to them and help as best as I can." She was forcing those words out, evidently, her feet already directed towards the door to run away.

"I don't need your help." For once, he was grateful for his automatic response. Pressing out something like that towards her would be impossible for the pudding head, and heart, he was.

Sakura pursed her lips. "You don't have to tell me." She made a pause and picked up her pen – how he hated that – and went on, "What is the last thing you remember before you woke up in the hospital?"

"Didn't you just say I don't have to tell you anything?"

Her pink hair rippled softly as she shook her head. "Nothing personal. While your mental state is just as much my concern as your physical one, I am only obliged to take care of the latter. And for that, I need to know what-"

"What happened before you found me," he finished, battling the urge to glower. After spending an entire week awake in this damned hospital he had not thought to be met with that annoying question again. Last time they discussed this, it ended with them almost kissing and her fleeing. And he was not sure whether he could deal with that again. His eyes caught hers, and he pointedly said, "Apart from the fact that I still am, by ways of work, entitled to retain those information, I don't think you want to know. Not after your reactions so far."

She narrowed her eyes. There was anger hidden behind those viridian oculars, he knew, but her voice remained calm and melodic as she said, "Try me."

"Hn." He sat up and placed his elbows on his knees, interlacing his fingers loosely to rest his lips against them – a posture with a stunning effect, he knew, if it were not for the disgraceful 'garb', more a bathrobe than anything, wrapped around him. She observed him with unhidden attention, and despite her obvious dislike towards him, there was this sparkle. Flicker, more likely. A remnant of their shared past which eluded her and pained him, and it was this flicker that made all of this so difficult. On him. On her.

'I need to end this.'

For a moment, he let his eyes devour hers, and he noticed with satisfaction how Sakura shuddered – one of the cherishable things unchanged. It was then, with the shudder raising the tiny hairs on her skin that he spoke, uttering every syllable with the utmost disinterest. "I killed a man and was attacked by his bodyguards. After ridding myself of them, I went on my way home – where you found me."

She was silent. Nothing in her face moved, as far as she could control it. But Sasuke had become a professional in reading the expressions of others, and hers had always been his favorite. Her mouth tightened, she held her breath and her eyes had widened from the very first word. Terror and shock, albeit withheld forcefully, were clear to see for those superior eyes of his. It was a natural reaction, and yet it made him feel uneasy. Ludicrous. He had planned for this response.

Sakura shied away from him by an inch as she shifted her position and crossed her arms – a posture meant to protect herself. For a moment, she just stared at him silently, unable to ban her emotions from her eyes, and Sasuke drank them eagerly, his entire being energized by her expressive appearance.

Oh, how he had missed her.

When she finally spoke, her voice was almost hoarse. "You... killed a man." It might have been meant to be a question, but she did not utter it as one and Sasuke did not respond to it. After gulping once and tightening the clasp on her forearms, she said, "You killed someone, were attacked by his guards, got rid of them as well and then tried to go home?" This time, it was a question, and Sasuke nodded. "How can you just nod at this?!" Sakura rose from her seat, her body shaking visibly with overwhelming emotions. "You killed someone! And you tell me this with a nonchalance as if it was a pile of papers you dealt with. I don't understand how you can react like this – you took a life! There is no justification for that, how can you even-!" She stopped herself and dropped on the chair, burying her forehead in one slender palm.

Silence spread. There were a hundred words sitting on the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed them all and let her draw her own, negative conclusions. He only had to uphold his compromise with himself: He let Sakura live the peaceful life she deserved, and in exchange he would bottle up his emotions long enough to leave the hospital. He would find a way to deal with them, eventually; and the way he knew himself, it would require a lot of blood and pain.

But when he could not stand the silence – her silence – anymore, he said, "It is." Sakura jerked her head up, confusion dominating her face like a giant question mark, and he elaborated, "My work. It's a pile of papers. I am given a name and an order and act accordingly."

'Why am I explaining myself?' Were she not sitting a few meters before him, he would have facepalmed with a grunt. 'Any explanations will lead to complications. Let her dislike me. It will make the break that much easier on her.'

Sakura stared at him incredulously. Then, a laugh broke from her lips – irritated and nervous, rocking her delicate body even as she shook her head and waved her hand. "Of course," she gasped, "it's just work. Perfectly normal. You get the order to kill, and kill."

Had she snapped? Sasuke watched her even more attentively than before, noting how her morbidly amused face distorted to one of horrified contempt, and then she said coldly, "You disgust me."

There was a pregnant pause. Sasuke heard his blood roar in his ears with the force and coldness of an avalanche, his temples throbbed and the world distorted before his eyes once again. But he willed his expression into indifferent stone. Self-control was of the essence. Was and had always been, and it would not fail him this time either, even though his tongue felt like a heavy and dead thing. Even though his heart gave one last, desperate pump before it broke.


The longer Sasuke stayed silent, the more Sakura felt the sickening sensation rise in her throat. He had the nerve to tell her he killed someone and then just looked at her with an expression of utter disinterest? She wanted to vomit or kick something – preferably him – and not for the first time, Temari's proposal of just handing him over to another doctor sounded inexplicably sweet. She had managed to avoid him for a few days, yet one simple encounter and she was already close to losing her temper. Again. She noticed the yellowish bruise in the crook of his right arm, and guilt stung her throat.

'Anything is better than us hugging, though,' she tried to calm herself, although the mere memory made her blush and her stomach coil. No matter how many nights she stayed awake to wrap her head around it, she would not understand her behavior. All that she had managed was to erect this barrier between them, but it was a fragile peace and she was not sure how long it could last. The air practically sizzled with electricity and she wanted to leave the room as quickly as she could. Now more than ever, after his confession.

A light knock on the door behind her kept Sakura from snarling something very indecent, and she jerked her head around. "Yes?"

"Pardon my intrusion, Haruno-sensei." A young nurse entered, carrying some files in her hands which she gestured towards. "Uzumaki Naruto-san has been hospitalized, and he refuses to be treated by anyone but you."

Sakura barely believed her own ears, and her mind was lifted off the heavy thoughts from but a moment ago. "Him again? Seriously, what is he trying to achieve by continuously coming here? And what does that mean, refuses treatment?"

"Well," the nurse wore a light smile, "he insists on seeing... 'Sakura-chan'."

A jolt when through her body. 'Why did she have to say that out loud?!' Sakura fidgeted, then froze. 'Somehow... I feel watched.' Very slowly, she turned her head, her insides burning.

Sasuke's eyes were glued to her. The nocturnal black was as unreadable as ever, yet the slight raise of his brows indicated some mocking disposition. His pale lips parted, and she knew what was coming.

"I-is that so!" She whirled around and readjusted her headband, her voice more than just a bit louder than usual. "Well, it can't be helped – after all, he's still a chil-"

"Ah, you went to school together, right, Haruno-sensei?" the nurse broke in with an understanding nod. "I'm sorry I came so late; you seemed busy, but childhood friends do have some sense of priority."

'Don't let him know that!' Sakura did not dare look over her shoulder; whatever expression Sasuke made right now, it would probably kill her of embarrassment on the spot, and she would not give him that satisfaction. Instead, she straightened her posture and received the file with as dignified a face as she could. "Thank you. I will take care of Naruto right away." With hasty steps, she left the room, uncomfortably aware of the haunting stare burning in her back.

Her head was red like a stop sign. 'Oh, how could this nurse be so indiscreet? Calling me 'Sakura-chan' in front of him.'

Sasuke's face rose in front of her mind's eye, wearing a mocking grin and asking tauntingly 'Sakura-chan? My, how cute. How about you go back tending to the babes instead of trying to annoy me?'

Granted, he had not said anything like that, but Sakura could well imagine he would. Pressing the clipboard to her chest, she reddened even further, already dreading her next encounter with her troublesome patient. 'And all of this is this Naruto's fault!'

"What did you do this time, you dim-wit?" she hollered as she pushed the door open – and almost swallowed her own tongue when she saw her mother looking at her with a critically raised eyebrow. "Er, I mean, um..."

Tsunade scolded her with nothing but her honey eyes for a moment, then she announced over her shoulder, "Now that my daughter's here, I hope you'll stop delaying the entire hospital, Naruto. Oh, and Jiraiya," she added, her head snapping over to the man sitting in the corner, "I know where you're looking and if you don't stop immediately, I'll hit you so hard you'll end up next to your godson."

Jiraiya raised his veined hands and gave a hearty laugh. "You're as harsh as ever, Tsunade. Kind of makes me miss the good ol' days, with just you and me-"

"Whatever," Tsunade said brusquely and turned away. "Naruto on his own is already enough trouble for us, but with you in tow..." She shook her head. "You're not even injured. Next time, tell Kakashi to come in your stead; he's much more reliable anyway. And he doesn't keep looking at me in that lewd way of yours."

The older man grinned even wider. "Harsher than usual, I would say. Hey, how about we drink some sake after your work? It's on me."

Tsunade huffed and approached her daughter. She placed one hand on the young woman's shoulder and said, "Let's have a talk one of these days. I'm sure there's the need." She sent a smile after those words which Sakura immediately responded to in kind, the guilty tangle in her gut loosening somewhat. Tsunade squeezed her shoulder and stepped through the door, barking without looking back, "My shift is over in four hours. If you're late, I'll bust your ass."

"How generous!" Jiraiya hailed after her, then turned to offer his grin to Sakura. "The little Haruno. Long time no see; have you grown? Guess I gotta thank you for always takin' care of my boy here" – he gave Naruto a hearty nudge in the side and the blond yelped – "but I guess offering you a drink won't work like with your mom, huh?"

Sakura frowned, but her lips curled nonetheless. "I'm afraid it won't; I still don't drink. And I haven't grown particularly in the last year either." Finally, she gave in to the smile. "But it's good to see you, Jiraiya-sama."

The elder man with the massive white hair cracked another grin and placed one hand beneath his chin. "Ho, did you miss me, Sakura?"

"As if," Sakura laughed briefly. "It's a good sign I don't see you. It means you're not getting into stupid trouble. Unlike a certain someone." She turned and focused her attention on the sick bed and the boy wincing on top of it.

With a grin that did not quite reach his eyes, Naruto said, "Hi, Sakura-cha–"

"Shannaro!" Sakura stood tall above her patient, fists stemmed into her sides as she unleashed all of her fury in a tirade worthy of her mother. "Do you know how much of a handful you are, you Uzumaki-idiot?! Not only do you constantly show up here with more bruises and breaks than one can count, no, you also insist on seeing me – aren't there enough doctors in this hospital for your taste?! I really hope your injury is a big one. If not, I'll make it big!"

With every shout flowing from Sakura's lips, Naruto shrunk a bit more, until the only thing visible above the white blanket was his spiky golden hair. "Sa-sakura-chan..."

"Hey, calm down." Jiraiya leaned forward and placed one hand on her trembling shoulders. "The boy's just doing his best, you know?"

Reluctantly, Sakura lowered her raised fists and she heaved a heavy sigh. "I know that, but... seriously, Naruto, what are you thinking? I have other patients to tend to and can't always come running to fix your bruises." She approached the intimidated blond and sat down next to him, her brow still furrowed in anger.

"... 'm sorry, Sakura-chan..." he mumbled with the mouth behind the blanket. "Just wanted to see you. I didn't mean to cause you any trouble'ttebayo."

Her expression softened, but she still feigned a scowl. "Well, what has happened?"

Half an hour later, she was not the only one to sigh in relief when she found out his bones were not broken, and Naruto's blue eyes beamed. "Yahoo! So, that means I'm ready to go, right? Come on, Ero-sennin, gimme a ride in your car to Kakashi-sensei's and-"

Jiraiya – being called Ero-sennin by his own godson for both reasons of his pen name and weakness of character – raised his hand undoubtedly for another reprimanding chop, but Sakura was faster. "Listen, Naruto! Just because your ribs aren't broken doesn't mean you can up and continue your training. Jeez." A vein on her temple throbbed and she suppressed the urge to smash his head in. "No training for a week, and you should also take it easy on the shop. Jiraiya-sama," she turned her head without missing a beat before Naruto could complain, "can I count on you to lend Naruto a hand?"

The white haired man gave her a big thumbs up. "Sure thing! Is not the first time anyway; and screw me if it's the last, haha!" He roared his hearty laugh and gave Naruto another forceful pat on the back. "And you! You ought to thank your lady friend here; can't count the times she's patched you up, nor the times she helped you with your homework back in the day. So be grateful!" He pushed Naruto's head down, and the blond struggled.

"Oi, get your hands off of me, Ero-sennin! I don't want your dirty writing to rub off on me like that!"

"I'm serving humanity, young'un! Once you get as old as I am-"

"Gods be good I never turn into a geezer like you!"

"- you'll come to understand the worth of my work!" Jiraiya barked to drown out Naruto's words, and the smile on his lips took on a strained note. "Really, you look like your dad but talk like your mom – if only I had known this before accepting guardianship!"

Sakura was not sure whether she should chuckle or groan, so instead she just shook her head. 'Like father, like son – or in this case, godfather and godson.'

"Ah, Sakura?" Jiraiya, still in the process of leaning on his godson's head, looked up. "You seemed quite stressed earlier; everything alright with you? Maybe you'd come train with my boy for a while. Guaranteed to put your mind off things."

Sakura gave a start and played with a strand of her hair. "Jiraiya-sama, you must be imagining things, I-"

"Oh, that's right." Naruto finally pushed Jiraiya's hand off and raised his head, the sunny hair spiking off even more wildly than before. There was a look of concern in his ocean eyes as he asked, "What's the matter with you today, Sakura-chan?"

'Even Naruto noticed!?' Sakura felt her cheeks redden, and a part of her wanted to deny everything; but then, she sighed and drew a chair close to her friend's bed, helping herself to a plastic cup of water from the nightstand. "It's this new patient of mine. He's a real pain in the ass and constantly bothers me."

"Like Rock Lee?" Jiraiya mused, one hand stroking his beardless chin, and Sakura shook her head so violently her headband almost flew off. "Ah, then it's good. Can't stand seeing new rivals coming up for him one's enough."

Naruto's head turned bright red, a tomato against the ripe wheat atop. "Wh-what are you blabbering, Ero-sennin?! Shut your mouth already! Don't listen to a word this old geezer says, Sakura-chan," he hastily added and conjured a seemingly carefree grin.

She shrugged it off. 'They'll both never learn it, huh?' But she had more pressing concerns than Naruto's teenage-love-like obsession with her. After taking another sip, she went on, "Anyway, he's really annoying. He's rude and cocky and bosses me around like I were some serving maid." She bit on the rim of the cup, gnawing as she furrowed her brows. "He's got some nerves!"

Jiraiya broke into laughter, roaring through the room and ripping Sakura from her gloomy expression. "Hoho, he sure has 'em, if he dares getting on yours." The grin spread his wide face even further, and the two red lines running down from the corners of his eyes – remnants of juvenile stupidity and now his trademark – wiggled in chuckles.

"Really, Jiraiya-sama," Sakura complained with a pout. "This is a serious matter. He's constantly on my mind and keeps me from doing my work properly- eh?" She interrupted herself and blinked at Naruto, suddenly directly before her face.

His eyes narrowed. "What kind of guy is he?"

"Sasuke? Well... like I said, he's annoying, unfriendly, rude, has no morals..." Sakura counted on her fingers as she spoke. "He makes me mad."

'And then there's the fact he kills people for a living,' she added mentally. 'Oh, and how we almost kissed. And he gives me the feeling that I've met him before, even though we surely haven't. And – heck, why do I even allow for Sasuke to become subject of my conversations!?'

"Haah?" Naruto made, his eyes still squinting. "Then just ignore him. You don't have to deal with people like that." When Sakura averted her eyes, Naruto seemed to read her thoughts; with one of his typical big grins, he said, "Don't worry, Sakura-chan! Once my ribs are healed I'll take you on a date and lift your thoughts off that idiot. Until then, just avoid him!"

Despite herself, a chuckle broke from Sakura's lips. "I'll consider it. Thanks, Naruto. I know I can always count on you to raise my mood." With a nod towards both men, she stood.

"Eh, Sakura-chan? You're going already?"

She lightly tapped her cloak. "I'm still at work, and there are other patients waiting for me. You two seem to be just fine. Make sure you rest properly, and don't cause too much trouble for the other patients on your way out." She left the room before Naruto could complain and shut the door wearing a light smile on her lips.

Sakura had to shake her head. 'Really, these two... I never got to meet Naruto's parents so I can't say whether he got it from them, but one might think he's Jiraiya's son in every respect. Ah, well. Back to work.' She looked down to check who was the next patient on her schedule – and when she read the name, her smile deepened.


A/N: Who said they would update within a few days? Hopefully not me, because I made you wait for four months. Oh boy, I'm really sorry; but it's really university's fault! I know I keep saying that, but here's the secret: university takes a few years to complete, and it doesn't get easier.

But who cares about that! The chapter is up. I'm rather proud of it. It's not that long, but it's very important from Sasuke's side, and who doesn't like some heartbreaking decisions? I hope you enjoyed it and that it was somehow worth the wait!

The next chapter... is the actual reason why I'm so late. Because this chapter is sitting around since mid-January, waiting to be uploaded. But since I hit a major block within the next chapter (also concerning a scene that's not even that important, ugh) I kept pushing it off. I hope that, having uploaded this, I'll get back into my mood of fixing the next chapter up.

In the meantime, let me know what you think! Which part did you like best, which part do you think would need improvement? Every reviewer gets a super rare, invisible gold star. Now if that isn't fancy, I don't know what is. Catch you next time~